Sunday, February 14, 2010

Week in Review 2/6/10 - 2/13/10

On Monday I officially filed for my candidacy for North Carolina House at the Wake County Board of Elections. We are very excited about our race and I am humbled by the amount of support we have received thus far. Some of you have expressed a little sadness that I may be leaving the council – I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little sad also. I have really enjoyed my time on the council and believe that we have made great progress in a very short period of time.

During my time on the council I have focused on fiscal management and economic development; creating an environment that encourages business growth through low taxes, high levels of service, and reducing burdensome regulations. I have worked to further protect our environment and address stormwater issues, and I have worked very hard to increase accountability and transparency in our government. I take great pride that Cary has the lowest tax rate in Wake County, and one of the lowest unemployment rates of any municipality in the state.

I sincerely believe this same focus and my brand of leadership are desperately needed in state government. North Carolina cannot continue business as usual and expect to compete in our nation’s economy. Last year alone the general assembly – and my opponent – voted to raise taxes over $1.1 Billion. They imposed a 2% surcharge on NC citizen’s income tax, and a 3% surcharge on the corporate income tax rate. This means that come April 15th, the average NC citizen will pay 102% of their income tax bill. But don’t worry – this is only “temporary”. They even created a new internet tax that taxes everything from internet downloads to ringtones. Yep – that Eddie Money song you wanted now costs a little more money. $55 Million in new fees, $70 Million in new “sin taxes” and legislation that allows the CURRENT gas tax rate to be set as the new MINIMUM tax rate are but a few examples of how out of whack our state legislator’s priorities are.

I don’t get it – and neither do North Carolinians. I promise to govern in Raleigh with the same conservative principles, dedication, and energy as I have in Cary.

OK – candidate hat off now – on to my council journal ;-)

On Tuesday council held a worksession to hear from a number of presenters regarding the proposed high speed rail, light rail, and regional rail projects. Speakers included Mr. Pat Simmons from NCDOT Rail, Mr. David King from TTA, Mr. Joe Durham and Mr. Tim Maloney from Wake County, and Mr. Ed Johnson from CAMPO. All presenters spoke to the current status and long term goals for these projects.

Council requested this worksession since Cary had received little to no information regarding these initiatives – and given these projects will directly impact Cary, we want to know what is going on – and who is planning what for our town. Sounds fair enough right?

What we learned is simply unbelievable. While the light rail and regional rail projects have merit, and we should be planning for these initiatives now so that in 20-30 years when they really would be an asset to our region we are prepared, the high speed rail project is absolutely absurd.

$5 Billion Boondoggle. The high speed rail project will cost taxpayers $5+ billion. So what do you get for $5 Billion? You’ll get to Charlotte 30 minutes faster than Amtrak currently does. That’s worth $5 billion right? Now I’m not sure what data NCDOT Rail is looking at, but the folks trying to get to Charlotte or Richmond aren’t the ones clogging up our roadways. It’s the folks who are trying to get to work and back each day.

What is terrifying is that NCDOT Rail’s goals are to ELIMINATE every at-grade crossing from Raleigh to Charlotte, and Raleigh to Richmond. Yet they will most likely not be the one’s paying to construct above or below grade crossings. Guess who will have to pay to grade separate should we desire to keep crossings open in Cary? Cary citizens, that’s who. NCDOT Rail has already submitted their recommendations regarding the route from Richmond to Raleigh. Care to guess how many crossings they recommend being closed? 156. That’s 156 roads that will now most likely dead end where they meet a RR crossing.

Mr. Simmons stated their goals are to move people and public safety. Now I can understand their concerns regarding public safety, but how in the heck does this project “move people” when they have shut down every at-grade crossing? How will you be able to drive through Cary – or any other municipality for that matter – when NCDOT Rail has essentially eliminated your ability to cross over RR tracks?

This dark cloud might have a silver lining however. The feds have currently allocated NCDOT Rail $545 Million – they still require another $4.5 Billion to complete the project. Given the current makeup in Washington and their lust to spend, spend, spend they might have a shot at getting it. However, after this fall’s elections I am not so sure that will be the case. For all our sake let’s hope not. In the meantime you can be assured that we will do everything in our power to represent Cary’s interests.

Wednesday morning I attended the North Carolina Community Foundation Breakfast at the Mathews House in Downtown Cary. The guest speaker was James W. Narron, Chairman of the Board of the North Carolina Community Foundation. He gave a great speech on how to better encourage folks to become more involved in their community by giving back through charitable contributions.

Our council meeting was Thursday evening. Notable topics included a potential partnership between SAS and the town regarding the Veteran’s Freedom Park, a comprehensive transportation plan amendment, and our federal legislative agenda.

Council directed staff to work with SAS and prepare a report to come back to council for discussion regarding SAS’s offer to donate the Veteran’s Freedom Park property to the town and their desire to construct a monument in the park honoring our veterans. While the specifics of what may be required of the town aren’t available yet, for us not to consider such a partnership would be criminal. I’ll report more on this item once I know more.

I pulled our federal legislative agenda off our consent agenda for discussion to propose the addition of a request to seek federal assistance regarding stormwater/flood damage protection. Stormwater and flooding problems are a big concern for a number of Cary citizens and I believe any assistance we can obtain from Washington to help assist us in this regard might better help us provide some relief to folks in town. Council unanimously approved my request.

On Friday I attended a meeting with Councilwoman Julie Robison and representatives of Silverton to discuss a signage issue they have been trying to work through with our staff. We will follow up with our town’s Planning Director to discuss further.

Well that’s this past week’s highlights. As always, thanks for reading!